To me, street harassment isn’t a joke and it is a very big deal. In fact, it changed my life in the most horrible of ways.
It began when I was 11 and entering middle school. A boy in my neighborhood liked me. I didn’t like him back, which made him mad. To get back at me, he told the whole school that I, at 11 years old, had sex with him over the summer. This gradually evolved into a rumor that we had sex multiple times. Another boy claimed not only that he also had sex with me over the summer, but he also got me pregnant. He told everyone, “She had an abortion because she didn’t take responsibility for her actions.”
For six months several boys would go out of their way to harass me on my way home from the bus stop. “Show us your tits!” one would say. When I would say, “No,” and, “Leave me alone,” it made it worse. They’d say to each other, “She won’t do it because she stuffs her bra.” I was then harassed every day for stuffing my bra. Eventually, I was worn down. When they trapped me in an alley, I was so ashamed that I just wanted to go home, so I flashed them. I would then go into school and be called a slut.
It was so bad that I was harassed into my first kiss and every sexual experience thereafter, including fellatio and sex. They continued to turn around and blame me. Others would trap me and say, “You did x with y, so you really don’t have a reason not to do it with me.”
At one point, I was harassed into not fighting back when a boy groped my breast. I was twelve. In a note to a friend I did the most I could to control the damage. I said that I eventually said yes. Nothing was more humiliating than the harassment I would face if I said it wasn’t my choice. My friend’s mom found the note and turned it into the principal. I was suspended for 3 days– longer than the boys who assaulted me. The school’s justification was that if I really didn’t want it to happen I would have done something about it, such as hitting them. The only problem was, had I hit them, I also would have been suspended because of a zero tolerance policy.
I could go on and on. I want to be clear: sexual harassment, including that at work, in schools, or on the street negatively effects the self esteem of those subjected to it. It ruined my self-esteem, made me think it was my fault when I was raped, and has caused me to suffer PTSD to this day.
I wish I could say this happened a long time ago. I was harassed daily from 1997-2004.
I also wish I could say this no longer happens in our schools, but that would be a lie. Ultimately, as a teacher from 2008-2011, I watched my female students be harassed every day. Despite my best efforts to report the harassment and associated bullying I was repeatedly told my my administration that “boys will be boys” and I was being “overly sensitive.”
Don’t fool yourself. Nothing has changed.
Location: Bristol Township, PAShare on Facebook